Twitch has started legal action against seven sellers of "view-bot" services, which are employed to artificially increase important metrics like view counts, follower counts and general chat activity.
In a post on the Twitch blog, SVP of marketing Matthew DiPietro called view-bots, follow-bots and chat-impersonation bots a "persistent frustration" to those working at the company. These rogue services are only used by a minority of the Twitch community, he said, but they, "have created a very real problem that has damaging effects across our entire community."
DiPietro continued: "Sometimes these bots are used by a broadcaster who believes the perception of higher viewership and social activity will put them on the fast-track to success or Twitch partnership. Other times, bots are used to harass other broadcasters in order to attempt to deny them partnership, or get their channel suspended.
"All of this is enabled by bot services offered by a handful of sellers who make misleading claims for their own commercial benefit."
Twitch is already engaged with stamping out the practice, principally through an ever improving "a range of technological solutions" that can detect and disable "false viewers." There is also a human aspect to that push, DiPietro said, with the company's moderation and support teams also investigating reports of suspicious rises in viewer counts, follower counts and chat activity.
"Today we are adding a third layer," he said. "We are taking the next step toward protecting Twitch viewers and broadcasters from the damaging effects of this kind of malicious activity by taking public legal action against seven of the most active sellers of viewbot services."
In a document filed with the San Jose District Court, Twitch highlighted one service that charged between $9.99 a month for 75 extra viewers and $38.99 a month for 475 viewers. Another of the seven defendants offered 100 viewers for $26.99 a week, going right up to $759.99 a week for 20,000 viewers. "Defendants' offerings, described in more detail below, are accompanied by fake follower and fake chat activity designed to make the fake viewership mimic real user behavior," the document said.
"These deceptive actions inflate viewer statistics for some channels while harming legitimate broadcaster channels by decreasing their discoverability. That, in turn, hurts the quality of the experience community members have come to expect from Twitch."
Twitch is seeking an immediate end to the seven defendants' activities, including its dealings with related third-parties like payment companies, as well as damages and legal costs. You can download the full document here.
As a parting shot, DiPietro asked the Twitch community to consider its own role in the rise of bot service. "The best way to stop viewbot sellers from profiting off of empty promises is to not buy their services," he said. "Using viewbots hurts anyone using them on their own channel or found to be using them against other channels, as well as the Twitch community at large."